Report Shows 2.7 Million US Children Raised by Relatives and Family Friends

A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows an increase in children living with relatives or family friends, so-called “kinship care,” because their parents can no longer care for them. This year, 2.7 million children, about 4% of all US children, were raised in kinship care–an18% jump over the past decade. Circumstances leading to children kinship care include death, child abuse or neglect, military deployment, incarceration, or deportation.

The report, “Stepping up for Kids: What Government and Communities Should Do to Support Kinship Families” [pdf], estimates that 9% of youths will live with extended family for at least three consecutive months at some point before age 18. In Massachusetts, 31,00 children (2%) are in kinship care, representing 18% of the state-supervised foster care population. Nationally, Mississippi and Kentucky have the highest rates of kinship care, at 7% and 6%, respectively. The report shows that kinship care families are more likely to be poor, less educated, and unemployed than in families where one parent is present (see a table outlining this data here). Kinship care is particularly prevalent in African-American families, where children are twice as likely to be raised in kinship care at some point.

Taking on parental responsibilities can be a substantial burden for relatives and family friends, adding emotional, legal, and financial challenges. The report outlines several recommendations for states and communities to assist families, like removing barriers in the child-welfare system and establishing laws and resources that bolster kinship families.

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